Race + Cartoons: DC Keeps Bane ‘real’ in Young Justice

By Arturo R. García

In a happy coincidence, one of DC Comics’ more talked-about characters last week, Bane, made another appearance in cartoon form over the weekend, as one of the featured villains in the company’s new Young Justice show – with voice-acting done by Danny Trejo, no less.

(Not saying I called this, but … I am just saying.)

Trejo’s performance underscored at least one good reason why his ethnicity matters. The opening sequence saw the character communicating bilingually without a hitch.  – well, almost. The Spanish-language dialogue Trejo was asked to deliver was cringe-worthy; Andrew R. Robinson, who is credited with the script, should have done better than merely “translating” English dialogue.

But I digress. The Bane we met here carried himself and spoke like what you would imagine a native Santa Priscan would. Like all of the character’s other animated incarnations, he bore no hint of a British accent, and his lucha libre-style mask concealed his face. This character is a Latino. And as I’ve written before, if Tom Hardy is asked to “do an accent,” it’s not going to help his case when The Dark Knight Rises is released.

The episode was also notable for showing viewers a more clearly-defined role for one of the series’ original characters, Aqualad. After the YJ team nearly blows its’ mission on Santa Prisca, it comes together after voting to appoint Aqualad, the oldest and most clear-headed member, team leader. It’s a nice touch, too, that the character is voiced by a POC, Khary Payton. It should also be pointed out that with his hair grown out, Payton sort of resembles the Aqualad currently appearing in comic-book continuity.

So far, so good, except for one misstep: after being named leader, Aqualad spends about a minute assuring Robin (and presumably the viewers) that the Boy Wonder “was born” to lead the team. Considering that, so far, Robin has only taken after Batman’s worst habits – impulsiveness and outright arrogance – it’s a bit much to swallow only three episodes into the series. But, at least Aqualad is in charge for right now. And maybe, if he catches on on this show, his comics counterpart can find the same kind of success. Here’s to hoping.

Top image courtesy of Toonbarn